updated 06:50 pm EST, Mon December 20, 2010
Walmart starts iPhone 4 gift card deal
Walmart today became the latest in a series of US retailers offering their first iPhone discounts. Those who buy an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 on contract from one of its retail stores in a new promo will get a $50 Walmart gift card for use in the store later. The deal should end on Christmas and is followed by promos that give away a $50 iTunes card with an 8GB iPod touch and a $20 Walmart card with a Nintendo DSi.
The discount isn't as steep as the recently ended Radio Shack sale, where prices were dropped $50 across the board. A deal at Walmart's sister chain Sam's Club would also slash prices directly rather than use gift cards.
Apple has never said whether it or the retailers were absorbing the costs of the discounts. The company has never itself discounted the price of an iPhone outside of refurbished models and, for over three years, had never let retailers sell the iPhone for more than a few dollars below asking price. The sudden switch towards allowing sales has implied, though not confirmed, a change in policy.
Speculation has floated that the discounts have been given the greenlight to counter Android. While most high-end Android smartphones sell at a full $200 on contract, they now regularly see discounting of $50 or more, even shortly after launch and while they remain popular. AT&T may alternately play a role as it is known to be eager to get as many customers on contract before its iPhone exclusive ends and a Verizon iPhone leads some customers to switch.